“Eat to fill your stomach, not your heart. Because food is fuel, not therapy.”
Emotional eating is a condition most people have, but not fully aware of the reason/s why. Although it is prevalent, it shouldn’t be treated as normal because this can bring negative effects on your health. It’s also important to know the symptoms of it and the effective ways to prevent it.
Most common reasons why emotional eating occurs
- Stress from work, relationship, family, career, and financial matters. A person stress-eat to steer clear from stress, depression, and loneliness, as a temporary relief.
- Boredom can also cause emotional eating due to lack of physical activities and social interactions.
- Other health-related concerns, like change in cortisol levels, fatigue, insomnia, poor diet, and hormonal imbalances, can cause unnecessary food cravings.
Symptoms of emotional eating
- Sudden cravings for a specific type of food such as those high in sugar or carbs, depending on the mood (for example, stress eaters may crave ice cream or chocolate when stressed)
- Eating huge portions of unhealthy meals in response to emotions, but not really to satisfy hunger
- Difficulty in throwing away leftover foods or empty food containers
- Frequently craving or eating late at night
- Difficulty in staying away from a certain type of food
- Uncontrolled hunger
- Easily triggered to eat (like intense cravings after seeing food commercials or ads)
- Gaining unnecessary weight due to poor nutrition that is gained from unhealthy food choices
Effects of emotional eating
- Diabetes (prediabetes, type 1, type 2, gestational diabetes)
- Obesity or undernutrition
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular diseases
Straightforward ways to overcome emotional eating
1. Analyze deeper what your body really needs
In terms of stress and eating, some people eat less when stressed, while others crave for a specific type of food as a comfort or distraction.
Make sure to be aware of the reason why you’re eating because most of the time, emotional eating doesn’t really mean you’re hungry.
2. Find a distraction
If you find yourself wanting to have pizza or chocolate cake, ask yourself, are you really that hungry? Or is it just your emotions that’s making you crave? If this is the case, you may want to try some effective ways to stop your unhealthy food cravings.
Or drink water because sometimes it’s a signal that your body needs more water. You can also go for a walk if you’re still craving for more dessert even after you had some.
3. Avoid temptation
Most of the time, the reason why you’re having food urges is because you’re surrounded with unhealthy foods at home.
Like buying a pack of fries, thinking that you may want to cook it someday. Well, that someday will come sooner than you expected because you will be tempted to eat it. So rather than buying these alternative foods, stick to a healthy food grocery list.
Another effective hack: never go to the grocery store hungry or in a bad mood to avoid buying unhealthy comfort snacks.
4. Have your food diary
You can have this written in your journal, planner, or phone app. Keep track of what you’re eating every day because this will help you evaluate your habits, goals, and diets.
This will also help you monitor if you’re supplying your body with the right nutrients or not. This way, you can adjust your diet and grocery lists.
5. Focus on your weight and food goals
Since you have your own food diary/tracker, focus on your weight and food goals. But don’t get too pressured because that can lead to more cravings. Just make sure you’re doing your best to stay away from these food urges while supplying your body with healthier options.
You can also try cooking for new recipes since home–cooked meals are healthier than buying food outside. At the same time, cooking a delicious meal for yourself is also an act of self-love. You can also try some easy and fun ways to level up your nutrition.
6. Make healthy food choices/alternatives
If you’re craving for french fries, rather than ordering from fast food, make your own version that’s fried in olive oil or try baked sweet potato wedges.
If you want tacos, make a healthier version of it. Put beans, organic tomatoes, healthy salsa, or guacamole in it.
Really want pizza? Use gluten-free flour, tomato puree mixed with your homemade tomato sauce. For the toppings, instead of the usual ham, try chicken breast. And don’t forget to add lots of veggies.
This may take a while and will require lots of effort. But it’s all worth it because you’re eating right while still giving yourself the satisfaction of eating very close enough to what you’re craving, without ruining your diet and body goals.
When emotional eating hits you, try to take a deep breath, relax, and meditate. This will help you fight stress so you can let go of the negative emotions that trigger emotional eating.
Meditation has proven plenty of proven benefits to physical, emotional, and mental health. And if you’re looking for top meditation gurus to help you with your meditation journey, this blog will show you a few of them.
8. Sweat more
Lack of physical activity can cause boredom too, which can stimulate emotional eating. But a good workout or exercise can release chemicals into your body (like endorphins) that can help you relax and think clearly.
A simple walk outside can also help distract you from thinking too much about food. Who knows, maybe you can bump into a friend and catch up for a while.
9. Get support
Fighting emotional eating can be done easier with the support of your family or friends.
Surrounding yourself with people who will lift you up and support you can really help you maintain a healthier lifestyle. So don’t be afraid to discuss with them what your food and weight goals are, especially to people you live with. This will prevent them from cooking unhealthy meals or snacks that can trigger emotional eating.
Seeking help from your doctor or mental health professional can also help identify the principal causes of your stress eating. This will assist them too in evaluating whether you may need a medical prescription or therapy for that.
Emotional eating is closely linked to stress eating. Thus, eat to fuel your body, not to feed your emotions. Follow the tips above to break free from impulses that lead to emotional eating.